Today I experienced something new, but unfortunately it wasn’t very nice; I was trolled. Without going into it a great deal, I’ll say that it was a series of vaguely threatening messages via Facebook PM, starting and ending with accusations that made no sense. At first, I thought that I’d actually done something somewhere online to upset the person, and was really apologetic, but it soon became clear that this wasn’t the case.
During our short exchange, one of the things the troll wrote to me was “You people are so full of yourselves.” It was completely out of context with the rest of the conversation, but that’s probably what made it so effective in her little psychological skirmish. In fact, I’m still having trouble getting it out of my mind. To whomever could the troll be referring? People who like it when everyone’s relatively polite to each other? People who appreciate not being scared out of their wits by weird, threatening FB messages? I don’t know who she thought she was talking to, but mostly I just feel sad that she was too blind to understand.
Most of my life I wasn’t cool enough to fit in with a crowd. I couldn’t be part of a “you people”. But now that I’m older, I’ve finally got a tribe. I know the people I’ve chosen to include in my life, and they’re thoughtful, open-minded, progressive, and almost to a person some of the most understanding and empathetic humans I’ve come across. I’m attracted to their light, like I hope that they’re attracted to mine. We’re mostly nerdy and quiet, and none of us are going to change (that much of) the world, but my “you people” is awesome. The members of my “you people” would NEVER try to scare a person for kicks, or say cruel things while hiding behind their computer monitors. Maybe that’s because most of us were bullied as kids, and learned pretty early that bullies are the worst. They are to be pitied for their lack of humanity, and ignored whenever possible. It’s how we survived. We’ve still got battle scars, but we’re alive, strong, and successful.
Ruminating on this reminded me that I was due for another Beautiful You post, and it just so happens that today’s is all about confronting the negative things other people have said about you over the years. The theory is that we internalize what we hear, whether we want to or not. If someone calls us ugly or fat or stupid, even if we don’t believe it, our minds hold on to that information and replay it from time to time to see if the data is true or not.
For me, there are four specific things I can think of that impacted how I saw myself as a child, and probably still today:
1) When I was about 9 or 10, I visited my paternal grandmother (my Nana) late one afternoon. That morning she’d had a tooth pulled, and she was in a bad mood. She took one look at me and told me that if I kept gaining weight, I was going to have a double chin. I’ve been obsessed with my chin fat ever since, which is stupid because it’s actually quite well defined – and singular.
2) In 4th grade, I got my first pair of glasses. They were huge and red, like Sally Jesse Raphael’s (anybody else remember her?). One of the boys in my class, Blake, picked on me a lot. He started calling me “Red Rims” and everyone else followed suit. I grew to hate my glasses, and I’ve never really gotten happy with myself in them, though I still wear them all day, every day. I’d really love to get Lasik sometime soon.
3) In 6th grade, I was being picked on a lot. Blake was still picking on me every day (let’s just clear this up though – he’s gotten a lot nicer as he’s gotten older, and I’ve come to realize he might have just had a crush on me). He threw broken pencils at me, called me names, and was generally an ass any chance he could get. But his friend Adam was worse. Adam hit and tripped me every chance he got, and called me “Pigeon Lip” because I had an overbite. That one stuck around, and even followed me into public school the next year, since he was friends with a kid in my grade at the new school. I’ve hated my mouth since then. I’ve had Invisalign, but my teeth aren’t movie star straight, and that’s not good enough for me. I’m pretty sure that my current obsession with getting braces again stems from my days as Pigeon Lip.
4) In 4th through 6th grade, a girl named Shelby picked on me daily. She mostly commented on my clothing and accessories, and pointed out to the other kids how poorly I was dressed. My family didn’t have much money, so most of my clothes were hand-me-downs or from yard sales, and the ones that weren’t were from Super 10 or (if we were splurging) Wal-Mart. I’d get one pair of sneakers to last the school year, and if they got holes we’d just tape them up or do whatever could be done to make them look presentable until the next year rolled around.
Since most of the kids I went to school with were comfortably middle class, if not wealthier, Shelby wasn’t the only one to notice that I didn’t fit in. But she was the only person who rubbed my nose in it in front of people at every opportunity, eventually getting them into the action. I can’t stand being dressed shabbily. I’m not a fashionista, but when something is worn out, or out of date, or not in style, it has to go. I have a lot of anxiety over my wardrobe, and that’s probably why when I get dressed up in regular outfits that look nice, I often visualize myself putting on a costume. Pretty clothes are like armor for me. Like maybe the bullies can’t see me.
The truth is that I have great taste in clothes, people always tell me that my slightly uneven teeth are “cute”, my glasses give my face character, and I’ve tried out the getting fat thing, and STILL NO DOUBLE CHIN (ha! take that!). The things that people picked on me about when I was younger were just silly little nothings, brought on by their own insecurities. Blake was as unhappy at that school as I was. Adam had just moved to town from Ohio, had an unhappy home life, and was trying to assert some kind of dominance over the class. Shelby was obese and unattractive, and wanted to prove she wasn’t a loser by pushing someone else around. Nana had just had a tooth pulled – honest, she was always super sweet otherwise!
Beautiful You says to replace the things that these people said with better lessons that I can carry around in my psyche. Lessons like: “you’ve got kissable lips”, “those glasses make you look quirky”, “love your style – it’s really brave”, or “glad you inherited my side of the family’s great bone structure!”
It’s OK, I already know. My you people have been telling me.